Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 100

than personal reflection. As a result, at present, the sum-total of input of subordinates to a leadership assessment is a rater asking subordinate officers if they have completed the requirement, and many times the question is not even asked. Nevertheless, implementing a subordinate leader assessment to determine leadership capacity may be fraught with problems, the largest of which is that it potentially could turn selection for leadership positions into popularity contests. One obvious problem is that a popular leader may not necessarily be the most effective in terms of mission accomplishment. Therefore, whether an effective subordinate leader assessment concept works or not again boils down to trust. If trust exists throughout the organization then we can trust the judgment of our subordinates concerning the competence and quality of the leadership that potentially would lead them into harm’s way. A proposal for both capturing subordinate feedback and determining the authenticity of the remarks pertaining to the quality of leadership of the individual being evaluated is therefore necessary. In a related issue, determining what level of subordinates gain input to the leader assessment may be difficult. But, for example, assume that only immediate subordinates would provide input. One avenue for collecting evaluation would be providing subordinates access to a survey on their leaders through Army Knowledge Online. The exact series of such a battery of questions would require the involvement of experts in psychology, military leadership, and survey techniques and not just the opinions of the author. That said, under the concept, the first question in the survey might ask, “Is this person an effective leader?” If the subordinate answers ‘yes’ then the survey continues with questions to quantify the leader’s positive attributes. If the subordinate answers ‘no’ then further questioning is required to peel back the reasons behind the negative opinion. Once the feedback is compiled, a copy is furnished to the rated officer, as well as to the senior rater. Given that senior raters are the most experienced leaders in the chain of command, they could either incorporate the feedback into their portion of the evaluation or discard the results. To complete the feedback loop the senior rater would have to state that the rated officer was counseled on the subordinate feedback regardless 98 of whether or not it affects the officer’s evaluation. Despite potential problems, such a system has great potential for weeding out toxic leaders early, and promoting those who have the greatest ability to engender confidence in both their superiors and subordinates. This could greatly enhance the overall command climate of Army units. Command Climate The Army understands the importance of a positive command climate. Members of every company-sized unit are required to complete surveys that provide the commander feedback on factors such as leadership, morale, and unit cohesion.34 While the feedback from these surveys often reinforces a commander’s assessment of the status of the unit, it can also highlight specific leadership failures within the chain of command. The in-vogue label for organizationally destructive leadership personalities is toxic leadership. Although no exact definition exists, it is accepted that “toxic leaders are individuals whose behavior appears driven by self-centered careerism at the expense of their subordinates and unit, and whose style is characterized by abusive and dictatorial behavior that promotes an unhealthy organizational climate.”35 Removing leaders that fit this description is an important step to maintaining a command climate that allows the warrior spirit to thrive. In contrast, if senior leaders do not create the conditions for effective leaders to produce positive command climates, then the warrior spirit will fall victim to risk aversion, distrust, and poor leadership in the Army. Apart from active measures to eliminate toxic leaders, increasing leadership education among company-grade officers to enhance leadership skills, ethics, and technical competence is an excellent step towards building the command climates required to sustain the warrior spirit in soldiers. Additionally, having transparent conversations about the negative effects of toxic leadership on the Army as an entire organization is also critical. This will demonstrate that the Army’s senior leaders are aware that toxic leaders exist in the ranks. However, measures to identify them and remove such toxic leaders from service are as yet inadequate. Such leaders, if identified at all, are currently shuffled to different assignments September-October 2014  MILITARY REVIEW